A Farewell to Fr. Gil
(The first part of this column appeared in April when Fr. Gil’s reassignment was announced. I thought it fitting to reprint it here.)
Late last month the diocesan clergy personnel director informed Fr. Gil and me that Bishop Murphy had decided that it was time for him to leave Our Lady of Grace for a new assignment: The one-year extension of his original appointment would not be renewed for a second year. While a surprise to both of us and a disappointment, we both knew that this is something that happens in the life of priests: We are ordained to serve the diocese, and we go where the diocese needs us. Fr. Gil’s appointment had already been extended here by a year at our request, and this year we made a similar request but the bishop rejected it.
I’m sure many of you who have come to know and admire and even love Fr. Gil will be disappointed; that’s natural, and an understandable response. I encourage you to let him know how you feel, and what you’ve gained from his service here. And I also encourage you to use this as a moment to learn something about the service of priests, for the sake of your own spiritual growth.
This is what I mean: It’s natural to be attracted to the Catholic faith because we find certain believers, well, attractive. If that believer is a priest, the attraction can be even more effective. All that is well and good. But every priest worthy of his ordination knows that he’s not in the business of attracting people to himself: his job is to point people beyond himself, toward Jesus. If the attraction stops at the priest, he’s only done his job half-well. (I showed this column to Fr. Gil before publishing it, and he asked me to include that he wants to emphasize this as well, as you’ve probably regularly heard him preach: Discipleship is not about the priest, it’s about following Christ.)
I certainly will miss Fr. Gil as a colleague in ministry. He worked tirelessly here, often in the background, to make parish life run smoothly and to make my job easier. And he was a fine companion living in the priests’ residence. I am confident that he will make a wonderful contribution in his new assignment, and people will come to know and love Christ through his ministry.
A Welcome to Fr. Gius
Joining us this coming Wednesday will be Fr. Gius Garcia, who is being reassigned from St. Frances de Chantal parish in Wantagh. When I was interviewing possible associate priests for our parish back in April I met him and was very impressed, and so I asked the diocese to consider assigning him here. He, likewise, asked the bishop to consider Our Lady of Grace for his assignment. Bishop Murphy agreed, and so he joins us for what we hope will be a long-term assignment here.
Once he arrives and gets settled a bit, he, Fr. Gabriel, and I will sit down with a list of priests’ responsibilities and sort out who will working in which areas of parish life for the coming year. (It’s not automatic that Fr. Gius will simply take over Fr. Gil’s responsibilities; we’ll try to apportion things according to each of our individual gifts and talents, as we try to do in every area of parish life.) Fr. Gius will be concelebrating the 5pm Vigil Mass with me next weekend as well as presiding at the Noon Mass next Sunday. He also hopes to introduce himself briefly at the other hours of Mass.
On your behalf and my own I offer Fr. Gius a sincere welcome; I look forward to serving with him here. Please show him the hospitality for which Our Lady of Grace is so well known. Until next week, peace.